Coming together in the spring of 2008 after meeting at Columbia College Chicago, Sidewalk Chalk has become a shining star in the burgeoning Chicago hip hop scene. Fronted by MC K’neqta Dots (Rico Sisney) and vocalist S-Star (Margaret Vagle), Sidewalk Chalk’s sound is a unique blend of jazz, soul, and hip hop. The group is rounded out by Charlie Coffeen on keys, Garrett McGinn on bass, Tyler Berg on drums, and HornBreaD (David Ben-Porat on trombone and Sam Trump on trumpet).
Further contributing to the inspiring stage show put on by Sidewalk is tap dancer Jumaane Taylor. Taylor describes his own role in the group as “to be an instrumentalist; to be another piece, another color, in the picture being created.” The band’s rhythm section (often playing their own sets of classic hip hop instrumentals under the name “The Ephelon Trio”) combines with HornBreaD and Jumaane Taylor to paint soundscapes as compelling as the performances of the vocalists.
Despite their average age of less than 25, the 8-piece band has experience beyond their years. Be it as music director for Brother Ali, singing for the Armed Forces in Europe, or touring with funk/soul outfit Jazzanova, every member of the group is in high demand in Chicago and abroad.
2009 saw the group release the Snacktime EP and embark on the “Freida Hites” Tour. One year later, the Chicago Reader named Sidewalk Chalk the “Best Hip-Hop Act in Chicago.”
The band is currently in the studio with recording engineer Greg Magers (Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool) recording a largely fan-funded full-length album to be released in 2011. Armed with a collective love of music and a relentless ambition to shift the lines between so-called genres, Sidewalk Chalk is creating a sound that will know no shelf life.
Drummer Tyler Berg was born in Pusan, South Korea, and shortly after relocated to the Detroit area. He started playing the piano in grade school, taking lessons from the neighborhood teacher. From that musical jumping-off point, Tyler dabbled in voice, guitar, and trumpet before finally landing on percussion. Once he found the drums, his interest in music spiked. After performing in school bands and jamming with friends, Tyler matriculated to Columbia College Chicago. A few years after his move to Chicago, he joined Sidewalk Chalk. Today you can find Tyler teaching, freelancing, or performing with his musical family Sidewalk Chalk.
Charlie Coffeen is a pianist and keyboard player from Fort Wayne, Indiana, who has been living and making music in Chicago for five years. He plays with and writes for Sidewalk Chalk, The Ephelon Trio, Animate Objects, and FadrBooste and a wide range of solo artists such as soul singers Yaw and Khari Lemuel. He also recently acted as music director for hip hop artists Brother Ali.
Charlie attended Columbia College Chicago, studying jazz and contemporary music before leaving school to tour internationally with Leigh Jones. He is currently working in the studio with Sidewalk Chalk for their full-length album, writing music reviews for the California Literary Review, and playing shows regularly throughout Chicago.
Sam “Trump” Harris
Sam “Trump” Harris is a trumpeter and an aspiring singer/songwriter from Houston, Texas. Now residing and studying jazz in Chicago, Sam Trump has been exposed to lots of collaborative recording and performing in many different genres of music. Upon obtaining his degree, Trump plans to become a professional educator and to continue to write, perform, and expand as a musical creator.
Garrett McGinn has been playing bass for over thirteen years, five of which have been spent in Chicago working in a wide variety of settings. From jazz to Motown to hip hop, Garrett has been providing low end that will get the rumps a’bumpin’.
DBP, born and raised in Connecticut, finished his music studies in Berlin, Germany, where he lived for seven years and worked with artists and producers such as Mousse T (Tom Jones’s “Sex Bomb”) and Jazzanova. Two years ago, he moved to Chicago to work on his first vocal EP with producer Greg Magers (“On a Silver Platter”, releases independently June 4, 2011). Shortly after moving to Chicago, he became connected with and is happy to be a part of the Sidewalk Chalk family.
Rico Sisney is an emcee inspired by the purest forms of hip hop. He is also a composer, performer and teacher. His self-produced composition recital entitled “Hiphop: Art Music of the Future” combined hip hop with 21st century classical music, jazz and funk. He has composed everything from reggae to neoromantic and baroque chamber pieces; acted on stage, film and television; directed films; and written plays. As a teacher he has broadened the horizons of his students and was named a “Superstar Teaching Artist” by CCAP’s community schools. Rico is an obsessive lyricist, constantly polishing and reanalyzing his lyrics, going over rhythms and stacking wordplay to create a rich “second-listen” experience. He is equally comfortable freestyling. He and his band Sidewalk Chalk have written new songs onstage to the delight of the audience. Recognizing that in music, particularly hip hop, the crowd is The Source, he always engages audiences, whether performing solo or with SWC. He has brought this energy to venues and festivals such as House of Blues, The Vic Theatre, Chicago Blues Festival, Buddy Guy’s Legends, and many others in Chicago and nationally. His rarely mentioned alias, “K’neqta Dots,” advertises his mission to connect with people, Earth and GOD through his music.
Maggie Vagle is a sultry songbird from the Twin Cities who migrated south to Chicago in 2003 and studied vocal jazz performance at Columbia College Chicago. Born into a family of musicians, this daughter of a singer and songwriter has a voice that can be simultaneously ethereal and robust, and a stage presence that instantly hypnotizes the viewer. She is the lead vocalist in Sidewalk Chalk, has graced the stage with the international super band Voo Voo, and has toured worldwide with recording artist Leigh Jones and award winning hip hop band Animate Objects. She has also collaborated with Def Poets Alvin Lau and Dan Sully in spoken word showcases. A musician that possesses an unmatched love for her craft, she blends folk music, jazz rhythms, rhythm & blues, and the power of a soul troubadour. Coupling this with her intrinsic poetic nature and radiating pure spirit leaves the listener with a cleansing sound experience.